Captain Dye's Blog
These are all the Blogs posted in October, 2010.
Thursday, 28
About that anchor on our emblem...
Ten years ago when the Commandant announced the Marine Corps was about to remove its ship's detachments from U.S. Navy capitol class vessels I yelled long and hard that we were screwing the pooch and we'd regret it someday. If you ask me right now - and Im sorely disappointed that no one has - I'd say someday has arrived. Or its looming right out there on the horizon as the Corps ponders the future minus commitment as a second land army fighting two disparate wars in the Middle East.
This month as I begin a regular round of personal appearances at various Marine Birthday celebrations marking the 235th anniversary of the founding of the Corps, Ill be lobbying everyone who will listen to reinstate Marine Detachments where practical aboard Navy ships including our current 11 aircraft carriers and 22 Ticonderoga-class cruisers. Just so readers won't suspect Im suffering from early on-set dementia, let me run through a few reasons for my stand on what might seem to be a back-step for the modern Marine Corps.
We've withdrawn all Marine combat units from Iraq after seven years of brutal fighting in that country. Our President has - unwisely in my opinion - set a withdrawal date for pulling U.S. combat forces out of Afghanistan, the other Middle East battleground that keeps Marines committed to a land-locked campaign. So now what? Well, now comes the inevitable inter-service roles and mission squabbles that always follow the end of major American military operations. Now comes the administration in the form of Congressional committees swinging big meat-axes and looking for money to be lopped off the defense budget and pumped into pet domestic programs. It's going to happen - it always does - and whining or bitching about the unfairness of it all won't get us much more than migraines.
The Marine Corps understands this fact of life perhaps better than any of the other services since our outfit is always the first one under the cost-cutting guns and a perennial target for the weenies who think we should be melded into the Army as both a cost-cutting and ego-inflating measure. Take a look at what happened after World War II and Korea if you need convincing. So there's a lot of talk these days among Marines about getting back to our roots; our time-tested specialty of projecting combat power or manpower for humanitarian missions from the sea.
Of course, in order to do that and demonstrate that the mission is still valid in a turbulent global situation, we've got to actually be at sea. The Marine Corps has got to find a way to keep at least one foot in saltwater at all times and I think that means a change in both commitment and perspective that most modern Marines who have never served aboard a Navy ship for any extended period might resent or resist after so long away from our Naval Service traditions. Marines are going to have to polish the anchor on our emblem over the next few years and that means more than just floating the odd Battalion Landing Team or Marine Expeditionary Unit in the Mediterranean, Pacific or Caribbean whenever we don't have anything more pressing to do. Marines need to get back to insisting as a matter of course that every U.S. Navy Expeditionary Strike Group or Task Force of one flavor or another carries Marines as a matter of course.
We need to salty up a new generation of Marines and establish a regular, increased and consistent rotation of units spending extended patrol time aboard ships of our fleets around the world. This business of thinking of the Marine Corps as an autonomous branch of the American military arsenal totally divorced from the Navy is a recipe for disaster and the inane push to rename the Department of the Navy to formally include the Marine Corps isn't helping. Unfortunately, its not just a fairly simple matter of putting more Marines to sea with the Gator Navy.
There's a considerable fleet of service-sensitive and cost-conscious admirals who spend their desk-bound days trying to torpedo amphibious ships in favor of aircraft carriers, guided missile cruisers, destroyers, frigates and submarines. They can live with a small number of amphibs and the business of hauling Marines along as a sort of after-thought to fleet operations, but they do a dramatic pee-pee dance when Marines start pushing for additional gators at the expense of more glamorous men-of-war. So, the question at hand in the short-run is how to increase Marine presence with Navy units around the world - thus keeping that all-important foot immersed in blue water - without forcing the aviation, surface and submarine admirals to gag.
In time-honored survival mode what we do is adapt and overcome. There's no need to innovate since the Marine Corps still has in short-term memory the plot and plans for stationing small units aboard Navy ships as permanently assigned Marine Detachments. We take a page from the vaunted Small Wars Manual, soak it in seawater and use Marine Detachments to win the hearts and minds of our sailor brothers and sisters. Using the sharp, handy and combat capable detachments aboard carriers or cruisers, we lever our way back into the true image of genuine soldiers of the sea. We get valuable seagoing experience in the ranks, we convince the Navy it has a true partner and not a competitor, and we fend off the Congressional merger mania.
See how simple that is? Modern Marines are going to bitch for a while insisting that service at sea is not why they joined the Corps, but we can handle that with a year or two of in-house indoctrination. Marines are notoriously good at that kind of thing. A more pressing problem will be the doctrinaire admirals who will retire to the fainting couch at the thought of restoring Marine Detachments on carriers and cruisers while they are still struggling to reduce shipboard manpower demands with programs like the Smart Ship Project which replaces sailors with automated computer programs. I think it's a battle worth fighting for the good of the Naval Service and the survival of the Marine Corps.
A lot of the bitching will abate when an American carrier or cruiser pulls into a foreign port with the ship dressed, sailors manning the rails and that sharp, stoic and perfectly-pressed Marine Detachment in ranks on the quarterdeck. And that's not to mention the suicidal bad guys like the ones who attacked the USS Cole who will have some serious second thoughts about attacking a vessel guarded by heavily-armed and highly-trained U.S. Marines.
Posted By Captain Dale A. Dye at 6:34 PM / Category:General News
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